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Life Without Summer: A Novel Hardcover – April 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Griffin's fiction debut is a spellbinding tale of loss and hard-won redemption. When Tessa Gray's four-year-old daughter, Abby, is killed by a hit and run driver, there are no witnesses. From first meeting, Tessa distrusts the detective assigned to the case and, with her journalism background and ties to newspapers in nearby Boston, she begins to dig for her own answers to the identity of Abby's killer. Meanwhile, she vents her grief with Celia, a compassionate but reserved therapist. Celia's story, with its tragic undertones, unfolds parallel to Tessa's: Celia has a second marriage, a secretive teenage son and an ex-husband who makes her current family circle impossibly tense. At the office, Celia is practical and pulled together, but her home life buzzes with strife. Outside therapy, Celia's and Tessa's narratives remain separate until they shockingly intersect and lead the way to hard-won healing for both. Griffin's carefully crafted characters ring heartbreakingly true and her finely wrought plot will snare readers from the first page. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Left with a stirring last vision of four-year-old daughter Abby, backpack slung over her shoulder “so wide her little head of curls stuck up like a turtle’s out of its shell,” magazine writer Tessa experiences near-paralysis caused by shock and grief in the days noted in her journal following the hit-and-run that claimed Abby. The bereaved mother starts counseling with Celia, a therapist Tessa first sees as so stiff and icy she finds herself questioning whether or not she can, or even wants to, be helped by one whose responses seem rote. Interspersed with Tessa’s journal entries and entwining the women’s lives in this stirringly believable epistolary novel are Celia’s own intimate journal entries revealing startling challenges. Winter passes, leading at last to new hope and life as Abby’s killer is surprisingly revealed and the two women, sharing “an unending connection,” bond in an unexpected way. Griffin’s strong addition to women’s fiction should be in demand. --Whitney Scott

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383886
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,280,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marie Anne A. on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The formulaic and predictable story is narrated by two women's journals. Tessa, the grieving young mother, numbers the days "without Abby". Therapist Celia is more precise- day, date, time. At first, it seems like Tessa is the one with the issues. She has to hold together a marriage after the unexpected, tragic death of four-year old Abby. Griffin writes so that we first think Tessa will lose her husband, her family, her friends. But we slowly witness Celia's world crumble. She is losing everything- her teenaged son, her new husband, her hold on painful memories and emotions.

Tessa is obsessed to find her daughter's murderer. Celia is obsessed with fixing her current family.

I guess the point of the story is to show the dysfunctional life of a therapist. Celia tries to help others, yet she can barely keep her family together. Tessa doesn't get all that much out of therapy; she finds her inner strength slowly and surely as she works through her grief. Celia makes some dumb, dysfunctional decisions regarding her ex-husband, Harry. (Too bad, because she has a really nice new husband!) Ian is a brat, and Celia is too focused on being his therapist than being a mother. She lets Harry get away with too much in the parenting world. I was hoping Celia would smarten up, but no luck.

The ending is especially cheesy. I skimmed through it because it was painful to read the cheese word for word. I wish it ended a little more darker, a little more real, rather than two people walking hand and hand, "understanding each other".

Griffin tells an interesting story, complete with real good descriptions of New England seasons. I have high hopes for next book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By randym on June 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This isn't a bad book, but it's not a great one, either. The beginning and ending are engaging, but I found long sections in the middle pretty dull. It's very much "chicklit," with a strong focus on relationships and emotion. There's a mystery, but it's probably not enough to pull the average male reader through this story.

It's not a long book; I read it in an afternoon. The mystery was not a big part of the story, but it was interesting enough. The problem was with the rather tedious "family fiction" part of the story (which was the main focus). The characters and their relationships left me cold. I didn't find them particularly likable, and I didn't really care what happened to them. (What would happen to them was awfully predictable, anyway.)

If I'm going to read family fiction, I want it to really grab me, like, say, The Lovely Bones. This book didn't do it for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Talbot on April 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I had a hard time putting this one down. In fact, I pretty much did nothing but read it the entire weekend.

The author did so many things right, mainly by never shying away from the hard parts. With a book like this, it's tempting to want to take the "easy" path, falling into simplistic characterizations of saintly grieving mothers, emotionally absent husbands, and dogged detectives who don't rest until they crack the case. Lynne Griffin turns all this upside down, giving us a vivid, compelling, and lifelike portrayal of a loving marriage that is strong enough to withstand a terrible loss compounded by police bumbling and misconduct. Tessa's anger is skillfully drawn, never over the top, and Ethan's grief is rendered both sensitively and realistically. The scene where they sit together on Christmas day and watch the video of Abby's life was wrenching and yet uplifting - it brought tears to my eyes in the best possible way.

Likewise, the character of Celia is not what you'd expect. Far from being the wise therapist with all the answers, she is existing in her own cocoon of denial, which makes for yet another believable (but never predictable) storyline.

All in all, this is one of the better novels I have read in recent years. I'm looking forward to Lynne Griffin's next effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Lynne Griffin hooks her readers on page one of LIFE WITHOUT SUMMER, drawing them into the powerful point of view of Tessa Gray, just days after she has experienced every parent's worst nightmare: the death of her four-year-old daughter, Abby, in a hit-and-run accident outside the little girl's preschool. When we first meet Tessa, she's a wreck, turning away from her differently grieving husband, rejecting the well-meaning advances of family and friends.

At last, Tessa is convinced by her husband to start seeing a therapist, Celia Reed. Celia is the one who assigns Tessa to write the journal that forms part of the novel's narrative. Just as we feel we're getting to know Tessa, however, we also get to know Celia through the pages of her own journal.

Celia is a competent, caring therapist, but she's also a mother; occasionally, she has a difficult time maintaining professional distance from Tessa's situation. Celia has recently remarried after years of being married to an alcoholic. Her 15-year-old son, Ian, seems most affected by the change in his family circumstances, disappearing for hours to his room, failing to complete his homework, and skipping school. Ian and his stepfather are constantly at odds with one another, and Celia finds herself questioning how, or why, she came to this place in her life, even as she works to help Tessa come to terms with her own family crises.

Tessa is convinced that if only her daughter's case was handled by more competent police detectives, she would finally have the one answer she's been craving: the name of the person who killed her daughter. Even though Celia cautions that this kind of closure seldom results in real healing, Tessa is on a mission to find answers.
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